A restaurant in southwestern China has become a site of natural history after a diner spotted dinosaur footprints in the establishment’s courtyard last week.
Located in Leshan, Sichuan province, the restaurant officially houses footprints of two sauropods that lived during the Early Cretaceous period more than 100 million years ago, a team from the China University of Geosciences confirmed.
Sauropods first evolved in the Early Jurassic epoch, roughly 201 million to 174 million years ago, and continued into the Cretaceous period, which lasted from 145 million to 66 million years ago.
These herbivorous dinosaurs had small heads, long necks and long tails and were most likely the largest terrestrial animals of all time.
Paleontologist Lida Xing, whose team confirmed the discovery, said the two sauropods — specifically brontosauruses — were most likely around 8 meters (approximately 26.25 feet) in length. His team used a 3D scanner to make the analysis.
Ou Hongtao, the diner who spotted the “special dents” on July 10, has an interest in paleontology himself and contacted Xing immediately.
Xing told CNN that the Cretaceous period was when “dinosaurs really flourished.” He said that the fossils that have been found in Sichuan are usually from the Jurassic period, not the Cretaceous period.
The restaurant’s location previously served as a chicken farm. The dirt that covered the footprints was only removed a year ago due to the restaurant’s opening. For this reason, the footprints are considered well-preserved.
“When we went there, we found that the footprints were very deep and quite obvious, but nobody had thought about [the possibility],” Xing told CNN.
The site has since been surrounded by fences, and the restaurant’s owner might construct a shed for further protection.